The age of commercial supersonic air travel may be set to make a comeback following news that Japan Airlines has partnered with Boom Supersonic to develop a new commercial aircraft capable of flying at speeds of up to Mach 2.2.
Japan Airlines is investing some US$10 million into the company in order to develop an aircraft that it claims “will cut flight times in half”, with an option to purchase 20 of the new aircraft in future. Current estimations for the aircraft’s service entry at some point in the mid-2020s.
“We’ve been working with Japan Airlines behind the scenes for over a year now,” said Blake Scholl, Boom Supersonic’s founder and CEO.
“Japan Airlines’ passionate, visionary team offers decades of practical knowledge and wisdom on everything from the passenger experience to technical operations. We’re thrilled to be working with Japan Airlines to develop a reliable, easily-maintained aircraft that will provide revolutionary speed to passengers.”
Understandably for a supersonic jet, the aircraft is set to feature solely business class seating, with between 45 and 55 seats available.
The investment is something of a gamble for Japan Airlines, with supersonic commercial air travel having something of a chequered history. British Airways’ Concorde jet, which could reach speeds of just over Mach 2, last flew in 2003. Demand for shorter travel times wasn’t able to keep up with the higher fares, and British Airways was forced to retire the aircraft from regular service.
Many airlines across the world also have been reducing or completely cutting their first-class offerings in recent years due to low demand, instead favouring a more premium business class experience at a more competitive price. This begs the question of whether travellers today will be any more willing to pay higher fares for supersonic travel than in the past.
Japan Airlines appears to think travellers will. Announcing the partnership, the airline’s president, Yoshiharu Ueki, said: “Through this partnership, we hope to contribute to the future of supersonic travel with the intent of providing more ‘time’ to our valued passengers while emphasising flight safety.”
Time will indeed tell if the carrier is proven to have been correct.